Have you ever gone to the dentist and after your teeth are cleaned, they ask if you want fluoride before you leave? A dentist explains how fluoride works and who it benefits most.
Dr. Fred Guerra said the first thing dentists do when a patient comes in is a risk assessment.
"A risk assessment in dentistry has been around a long time, and there is also something called evidence-based dentistry, which all the scientific studies conclude that for those patients that are in a higher risk category, topically applying the fluoride helps in reducing cavities," he said.
Dr. Guerra said factors are determined by dentists or hygienists, and can range from younger patients, to people who take certain medications, to older patients. Fluoride applied to your teeth typically comes in three forms.
"There is a gel and a foam. These are usually put in a tray where someone is usually biting for one-to-four minutes. Fluoride can also be topically applied by being painted on the teeth. It's a sodium fluoride delivery system that is faster and we use less of the material. There is also less taste and foaming in the mouth, and it's more readily acceptable by the patients," Dr. Guerra said.
So how does fluoride actually work to strengthen teeth, and in some cases, stop cavities in their tracks when caught early enough?
"There are hydroxyapatite crystals, without getting too technical, that are part of the composition of enamel, and we are trying to prevent the enamel from breaking down. And the fluoride ion gets incorporated into those and strengthens the tooth. We have actually seen some patients that have early cavity lesions, and with topically applied fluoride, very good oral hygiene, proper flossing and brushing, those early lesions will re-mineralize and we won't need to drill on that particular tooth," Dr. Guerra said.